ST. JOSEPH, Mo.
Senator Roy Blunt made a pit stop in St. Joseph Thursday morning to talk about the continued push for mental health resources.
Senator Blunt spoke along with medical professionals and county and city law enforcement at Family Guidance to highlight the continued efforts to improve access to mental health treatment in the state and specifically in Northwest Missouri.
Blunt introduced the "Excellence in Mental Health Act" back in 2014. Last December Missouri was one of eight states selected to participate in the demonstration program created by this act.
"I think we're going to even be the leader among those 8 pilot states," Blunt said.
Last week, Blunt introduced legislation that would extend the program for one year to states that are currently participating, and expand the program to 11 more states that have applied to participate.
Blunt said there are now 200 behavioral health clinics open in the Show Me State, many of which are additions to regular health facilities, providing a convenient one-stop shop for Missourians.
"It's so critical to understand that behavioral health is just like all other health," Sen. Blunt said. "When you do that, the other health issues that people with behavioral health challenges are dealing with are so much more easily dealt with."
President and CEO of Family Guidance Garry Hammond said Senator Blunt's advocacy has helped to improve the quality of care in both Missouri and throughout the nation.
"We have increasing suicide rates, we have veterans with mental health issues. So his leadership is critical," Hammond said.
Blunt also applauded efforts of Family Guidance, as well as the St. Joseph Police and Buchanan County Sheriff's Department in addressing mental health issues in Northwest Missouri.
"You've really got, in Northwest Missouri, a long legacy of over 100 years of a free clinic here in the community, 107 years of a behavioral health clinic at a time when behavioral hospitals may have been around, but not very many clinics where people could come in, have an appointment." Blunt said of Family Guidance services.
Family Guidance has also partnered with the sheriff's department to provide a clinical therapist to the jail, thanks to a 2-year grant from the United Way.
"This is a whole new thing and we're really excited," said Sheriff Bill Puett. "The need is tremendous. Obviously when people are incarcerated they have all kinds of personal issues going on, like say chemical dependency. They get into self-harm concerns, sometimes. And all the things we see facing community are present in the jail. So this will be a great opportunity to address some of those things."
Puett said they are currently in the hiring process for a therapist and they hope to have someone hired by the end of this year.
Family Guidance is also expanding its services to a new location downtown on Felix Street.